Second Harvest pushes 'pause' on Empty Bowl for 2019

The event typically is held in April at the Depot in downtown Duluth.

A selection of colorful, artist-created bowls line a tabletop at the "Sea of Bowls" preview for the Empty Bowl fundraiser in 2016. (file / News Tribune)

After 25 years, Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank in Duluth won't hold its annual Empty Bowl event in 2019.

The event typically is held in April at the Depot in downtown Duluth. Attendees can purchase handmade bowls and get a meal of soup to fill them.

The food bank is skipping the event this year to re-examine whether it's the best use of its resources.

"We're just pausing this year; no one says this event is done forever," said Shaye Moris, Second Harvest's executive director. "We want to be really good stewards of our resources, and we're asking ourselves, 'Is this still the right event?'"

Moris said that Empty Bowl started out as a community-led event, with a lot of local members who worked to organize it. As the fundraiser has grown, it requires more coordination. Second Harvest made the decision last year to take a break in 2019, and it informed its partners last fall.


The event is Second Harvest's largest, bringing in about $49,000 last year. But that net amount doesn't include staff salaries and other internal expenses, and there might be a better way to fundraise going forward, Moris said.

"We want to dedicate as much as we can to feeding people," she said. "(Pausing this year) isn't about taking something away from the community. We're asking, 'What can we provide to the community that's of high value?'"

In the meantime, Moris said that financial support is always appreciated, as are volunteers at the food bank's distribution center.

In addition, all proceeds from the upcoming Taste of Fitger's event on March 29 will benefit the food bank. In November, Project Joy's annual fundraising event also benefits the food bank's BackPack Program, providing food for children in need when school isn't in session.

Second Harvest is asking the public for input on future events through a survey at Moris said the food bank would gather feedback through March 31 and would probably make a decision about next year by this fall.

Adelie (Her name rhymes with "Natalie") is a former News Tribune reporter who continues to write the Northlandia column on a freelance basis. She's also an artist, photographer and fine-art model. She's a girl of the North with a love for Scandinavia, the Northern Lights, quirky films and anything mid-century.
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